Richard Ashcroft was born in Billinge, Wigan, England, on September 11, 1971. The singer-songwriter is known as the lead vocalist and occasional guitarist for the alternative rock band the Verve. The band split up three times throughout the 1990s and 2000s, breaking up for good in 2009. Ashcroft then embarked on a solo career before starting a new band, RPA & The United Nations of Sound, in 2010.
Musician Richard Ashcroft was born in Billinge, Wigan, England, on September 11, 1971. He was the only son to father Frank, an office clerk, and mother Louise, a hairdresser. He has two younger siblings, Victoria and Laura.
In 1982, when Ashcroft was 11 years old, his father suddenly died due to a brain hemorrhage. His father's passing affected him deeply, causing great emotional turmoil in the young lad. He was considered an outsider in school, and expressed himself by experimenting with different haircuts and hair colors. After his mother remarried, Ashcroft fell under the influence of his stepfather, a member of the Rosicrucian ancient secret society.
At age 13, Ashcroft knew he wanted to be a singer in a band, later stating, "Since I was a kid, I've wanted to be in the best rock 'n' roll band in the world. But I wouldn't be here now if my father hadn't died. Death makes you re-evaluate life. I was 11, and while the other kids played with Action Man, I was questioning life. I decided I was never going to be locked into a predictable existence. From that moment, I felt it was set in stone that when I left school, I'd be in a band and would make it."
Outside of school, Ashcroft was an avid football player and fan of the team Manchester United, but over time he lost interest and turned to music instead.
While a student at Upholland High School, in 1989, Ashcroft founded a band called Verve. The band included fellow classmates Simon Jones, Simon Tong and Pete Salisbury. Later, at Winstanley College, classmate Nick McCabe joined the band. The English alternative rock band eventually changed its name to "the Verve" due to a copyright infringement lawsuit by a Jazz label under the name "Verve."
The band's public debut took place in August 1990 at The Honeysuckle Pub, located outside of Wigan. With Ashcroft as lead vocalist and songwriter, Hut Records signed the band a year later. In 1992, the band released its first album, Verve EP, to positive reviews. In the meantime, the British press dubbed Ashcroft "Mad Richard" for his drug-fueled partying, egocentric confidence and quotable outbursts.
The Verve's first full-length album, A Storm in Heaven, debuted in 1993 to critical acclaim in both the United Kingdom and the United States. Fans especially praised Ashcroft's songwriting and McCabe's guitar work. The next year, the band was invited to join the alternative rock festival, Lollapalooza, where they played as the only British band. It was there that Ashcroft collapsed and convulsed due to dehydration, following an intense bout of drinking.
In 1994, the Verve released a compilation album of B-sides and outtakes, entitled No Come Down. Their 1995 follow-up album, A Northern Soul, marked the beginning of the end for the Verve. Fueled by Ecstasy and other illicit drugs, band members began turning on one another—most notably Ashcroft against McCabe. Though A Northern Soul received critical praise, it was not a commercial hit. Ashcroft broke up the band that year, citing, "It just all got too mad. The major dispute was between me and Nick. Quite often in bands you have a duel going on—look at Liam and Noel [from the band Oasis]. Nick and I were as volatile as you can be without violence."
Shortly after the break-up, Ashcroft brought the band together again, but McCabe refused to sign on. In 1997, McCabe changed his mind and returned to the Verve, and the band released the BritPop album Urban Hymns. The album received acclaim from critics and met with commercial success internationally. Its first single, "Bitter Sweet Symphony," reached No. 2 on the U.K. music charts and No. 12 on America's Billboard charts. Controversy ensued with the hit song due to a loop taken from the Rolling Stones' single, "The Last Time." A lawsuit resulted in the Verve losing 100 percent of the royalties for "Bitter Sweet Symphony." Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were also granted songwriting credits and full publishing rights to the song.
Friction between band members resurfaced, and McCabe quit during the Verve's European and U.S. tour. Ashcroft filled in as lead guitarist, which led to unfavorable reviews. The band broke up for the second time in April 1999.
Ashcroft then embarked on a solo career, releasing 2000's Alone with Everybody, 2002's Human Conditions and 2006's Keys to the World albums.
In a surprise announcement, the Verve regrouped in 2007 (minus Simon Tong, but with former foe Nick McCabe). The band toured in 2008 and released a new album, Fourth. The reunion proved to be short-lived, as the Verve broke up for a third and final time in 2009.
In 2010, Ashcroft formed a new band, RPA & The United Nations of Sound. Their debut album, United Nations of Sound, came out in 2010. The group continues to release singles today, in both the United Kingdom and the United States.
Ashcroft dated college sweetheart Sarah Carpenter for six years, and she appeared on the cover of the Verve EP album.
In July 1995, Ashcroft married Kate Radley, the former keyboard player of the band Spiritualized. Together, they have two sons: Sonny, born in 2000, and Cassius, born in 2004. They live in Gloucestershire, England.
Ashcroft's social circle has included Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, and Oasis band members Noel Gallagher and Liam Gallagher. Noel once admiringly said of the Verve, "[They're] a bunch of space cadets, led by Captain Rock. They're all bonkers."
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